Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alan Sisson Dunbar

Athlete, broadcaster and journalist;

Born: February 26, 1934; Died: July 1, 2011.

Alan Dunbar, who has died aged 77 after a long illness, was a former athlete and drama lecturer who went on to become a successful journalist and broadcaster.

He was a man of many parts and sometimes conflicting roles. Luminaries from all realms of his life were present at his self-planned funeral at an Edinburgh hotel, the first ever held there, and heard tributes from family, to whom he was devoted, and former colleagues.

Winner of the 1957 Relay TeamScottish 100 yards title in 1955 and 1956 after earning his full blue at Glasgow University in 1954, Mr Dunbar had an unorthodox “flappy” arm action which was certainly eye-catching but for whatever reason, possibly his bad luck with muscle injuries, he was still overlooked for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games by the British selectors.

Mr Dunbar even defied the head of drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama to run in the Scottish Championships in 1955 when the college graduation clashed with the event.

Originally from Stranraer, where he won the Scottish junior 100 yards titles in 1951 and 1952, the year he also captured the AAA junior crown, Mr Dunbar went on to represent Scotland in the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff, winning his first round heat before going out in the second round.

A member for many years of the legendary sprint team of Glasgow club Victoria Park AC, who monopolised the Scottish 4x100 metres relay championship throughout the 1950s, he amassed trophies galore. Yet he was certainly not someone who let his running do the talking.

In 1957 he withdrew from the final of the national 220 yards at New Meadowbank in Edinburgh (the forerunner of the 1970 Commonwealth Games stadium) in protest at the condition of the then cinder track and he later organised an unsuccessful petition, backed by abound 50 athletes, against further use of the venue for Scottish championships. No wonder one headline described him as the “Stormy Petrel of the Track”.

His transition to1958 Relay Team broadcaster and sportswriter was a natural one when he hung up his spikes in 1961 and became the voice of athletics on Radio Clyde and the scourge of the Scottish selectors as a fearless and regular contributor to the Evening Citizen and The Scotsman.

Mr Dunbar was one of a loyal and dwindling band of reporters who covered the sport week in, week out, no matter the weather and even when illness severely hampered his mobility.

In tandem with his media work, he also continued his career in drama, lecturing at Langside College in Glasgow from 1956 to 1963 and, until 1971, at the city’s Central College of Commerce.

Moving to Edinburgh he changed to communication at the then Napier College and eight years later became a much esteemed senior lecturer in communication at Queen Margaret College, a post he held for the next 10 years.

A period of illness persuaded him to retire but he soon began branching out, accepting an invitation to become a guest director at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For the next 20 years he was a permanent member of staff of Edinburgh Acting School, directing many shows with, according to principal Anna Finline, “great enthusiasm, expertise and intellect”.

It was typical of the man that he directed his final stage exit.

He is survived by Margaret, his wife of over 50 years; two daughters, Stephanie and Sara; two sons, Jonathan and Alan; and two granddaughters Georgia and Bryony.